Hollywood Embraces Autism for Animation

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Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) helps fund new animation studio at Exceptional Minds, a working studio staffed by young visual artists on the autism spectrum.

Exceptional Minds officially opened a new animation unit last week that is staffed by young professionals with autism, thanks in part to a generous grant provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) last month.

The new unit includes up to 18 workstations for producing professional animations for the entertainment industry and broadens the scope of the Exceptional Minds working studio, which provides paid work and experience for graduates of the Exceptional Minds vocational school for young adults with autism. “We are very fortunate to have the support of an amazing industry that has given these unique individuals the opportunity to become independent, productive adults,” says Exceptional Minds Executive Director Ernie Merlán.

Since opening its doors in January of 2014, Exceptional Minds Studio has completed visual effects projects for more than 50 productions, including Game of Thrones, The Knick, X-Men, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War

Now, with the addition of an animation unit funded in part by a $25,000 grant by the HFPA as well as donations from an anonymous donor, Exceptional Minds is able to add animation to its list of contracted services that include rotoscope, vfx cleanup, green screen keying, simple compositing, object removal, tracking mark removal, and end title work.

The studio has already been contracted to provide animation services for a documentary as well as an educational cartoon on hygiene produced by writer/producer David Obst.

The HFPA grant helped fund new software and hardware for the animation unit and was part of nearly $2.4 million in grants handed out by the HFPA last month at its annual Grants Banquet at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

This is the second year in a row that HFPA has donated to Exceptional Minds, the only vocational school and working studio to prepare and successfully place young men and women with autism in careers in the fields of animation and visual effects.

Currently, the majority of the nation’s 3.5 million people with autism are unemployed or underemployed, according to government statistics. More than 500,000 U.S. children impacted by the disorder will enter adulthood during this decade, with one in 68 children to follow.

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Dee McVicker
Grassroots Communications
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